Last Friday, we introduced you to Luke Ross: a modder who now makes $20,000 a month on Patreon bringing big games like Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 to virtual reality. But the publisher of those games, Take-Two Interactive, was apparently not amused — and Patreon is now threatening to suspend his account unless he plays ball with a DMCA takedown.
What does Take-Two want him to do? That’s not actually clear, but it’s looking like Ross will be forced to remove his VR mods anyhow.
Here’s a copy of the message Ross says he received from Patreon on Wednesday morning, as provided to The Verge:
Jul 6, 2022, 8:54 AM PDT
My name is Richard, and I’m contacting you from the Patreon Trust & Safety team
We recently received a copyright claim for works you are making available on Patreon. Specifically, the claim comes from Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., parent company of Rockstar Games, Inc. and 2K Games, Inc., who owns the rights to Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Mafia Definitive Edition being utilized in your posts on Patreon.
We ask that you remove all copyrighted works from your Patreon page. If you are unable to remove these works in a timely manner, or if we have trouble determining the extent of the potential infringement on your page, we may suspend your account or the posts in question until all claimed materials have been removed.
For more details regarding what you can do when you receive a DMCA against your page, you can go here: https://support.patreon.com/hc/en-us/articles/208020666-What-happens-when-I-receive-a-DMCA-notification-of-claimed-infringement-
Please note that even in the even that you file a counter-notice, you will still need to remove the claimed content from your page.
Thank you in advance for understanding and for addressing this claim. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Patreon Trust & Safety
Monday – Friday
9am – 6pm PST
As you can see, there’s not a lot of room to negotiate there. Patreon clearly states Ross has to remove “all copyrighted works” even if he appeals. And according to Patreon’s DMCA FAQ page, he’s only got 48 hours to comply, even though Ross tells us he wasn’t actually provided with a copy of Take-Two’s DMCA takedown request and doesn’t know what they’re asking him to remove.
What’s a modder to do? In a public blog post, Ross says he doesn’t believe he’s actually hosting any copyrighted material. “[N]one of my modifications are built using software belonging to Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc, and the modifications are not intended to replace their games, nor are they a means of exploiting Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc’s proprietary IP or assets.” You have to buy the original game for them to work.
But the “they’re just mods” argument hasn’t stopped Take-Two before. There has been wave after wave of GTA V modding crackdowns, and the company’s even filed a lawsuit when a DMCA takedown wasn’t scary enough. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick even defended the company’s behavior in a 2021 earnings call, trying to explain that Take-Two doesn’t necessarily hate mods. “That said, if the economy is threatened, or if there’s bad behavior, and we know how to define that, then we would issue a takedown notice,” he said. Back then, it seemed like the mod crackdown was clearing the way for remastered Grand Theft Auto games; we haven’t heard about an official GTA V VR mode, but it is true that San Andreas is coming to VR. It’s possible Take-Two believes Ross’s mods will dry out demand for official VR titles. Take-Two has also filed lawsuits against mods that enable cheaters, which is obviously a little less controversial.
Take-Two didn’t respond to our request for comment.
Because he’s on Patreon, Ross doesn’t have a lot of options, and he believes he’ll likely be forced to take down every last mention of Rockstar’s games from the site even if Take-Two doesn’t explain itself one bit. Here’s how his post ends:
“[I]f left in the dark I can only err on the side of caution, and I will not risk other games being involved in the purge in case Patreon elects to shut down my page. That means that all posts, images, guides, recommendations, tutorials and above all my VR mods for GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2, Mafia: Definitive Edition, Mafia II: Definitive Edition, Mafia III: Definitive Edition will be taken down and will no longer be accessible to download.
I refuse to believe that is what Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. wants, because that would be an extremely anti-customer and anti-gamer move on their part. But I am not getting in a legal battle with them. If what they want is to assert their corporate dominance with gamers’ interests as collateral damage, I have no power to stop them.
Patreon spokesperson Ellen Satterwhite tells The Verge that the company will indeed reach out to Take-Two for more info about what’s actually being claimed and has offered to connect both parties directly to clear things up. “We very much hope direct communication between the parties will be productive,” reads part of a statement to The Verge. Ross plans to try that.
We’ve asked Patreon whether the 48-hour time limit is still in effect or if Ross can wait until Take-Two makes its demands clear before he cleans house.
Ross tells me he doesn’t regret doing the Verge interview, even though it might spell disaster for his Patreon. He says: “In the battle to spread the message that it’s only the studios’ and publishers’ will (or lack thereof) that stops AAA games from being ported to VR, this is probably a sad but necessary step.”
You can read more about that supposed battle in our original story.